Every member of Ohio State’s starting offensive line earned either First- or Second-Team All-Big Ten accolades last season.
Guards Wyatt Davis and Jonah Jackson were first-teamers, while center Josh Myers and tackles Thayer Munford and Branden Bowen earned second-team nods.
That talented group of five was arguably the best in the nation, and now Jackson and Bowen must be replaced.
Thanks to more-than-adequate recruiting over the last couple of years, there are ample options at the vacated left guard and right tackle spots. In fact, there are legitimately three suitors for each position.
But it’s not just the two open positions where players are stepping up. As a whole, this offensive line was impressive early in spring.
And even though there were only three spring practices this year, veterans Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis were excited by what they saw.
“As a unit, we were taking such huge strides, getting to a place that was better in my opinion from the start of spring,” Davis said recently. “Last year spring ball started for us, and Josh can attest to this, we were in a very rough spot, to say the least, as far as offensive line. And after that first practice, I felt like personally that, whether it was the first-team, second -team, or third-team, guys were getting after it going against the defense.”
This year’s Ohio State offensive line will feature 17 scholarship players, essentially giving them a three-deep and two spares.
It’s a group with just two seniors, though both Myers and Davis are possibly headed to the NFL after this season.
There are six true freshmen who will be on the roster this fall, which has allowed the numbers to get much more comfortable than they were a year ago when landing Jonah Jackson as a transfer from Rutgers was so key.
Despite the lack of spring, the Buckeyes did have a full winter, and Myers saw improvements through all of it, especially among the young guys.
“I think, as an offensive line unit we were taking a huge step this spring,” he said. “Even just through the first week, through the first three practices. Our young guys were taking huge steps and you could tell. I could tell big time that we had some guys that were going to get way better this spring.”
There is little doubt that both Myers and Davis believed the offensive line could have been better than it was a year ago, but common sense would say that the cancellation of spring ball has made that much more difficult to come to fruition.
Despite that difficulty, Davis still believes this group can be better than they were a year ago because of what he saw from the guys who needed to step up.
“And I do truly believe that we can be better than we were last year because that culture was instilled with last year’s offensive line, which was playing nasty, physical, and just trying to dominate,” Davis said. “Because you can see it in these young guys. Guys like Matt Jones. You saw it in the workouts, he completely changed his whole mental [aspect].
“I just loved seeing the fact that he’s so willing to put the work in. And Harry Miller, he’s been doing the same thing from the moment that he’s gotten to Ohio State. Also young guys like Paris Johnson. This guy, he’s already kind of stepping up as a leader for the young guys. He’s leading the young guys around and you just love to see that.”
Miller and Jones will be competing with graduate senior Gavin Cupp for the open left guard position, while Johnson will be competing with Dawand Jones and Nicholas Petit-Frere to be the Buckeyes’ right tackle. Possibilities abound, though losing spring has certainly made the path much more difficult for the true freshman Johnson.
He’ll have time to make his mark, however, because it doesn’t look like either spot will be entirely wrapped up any time soon.
“I think the competition for those two spots, there isn’t a clear-cut answer as to who’s going to start right now,” Myers said. “I think the competition of that is driving all of them so hard, striving for that spot. They were getting better and it was fun to watch. As to who will start, I don’t think any of us really know right now. Time will tell, but I have all the confidence in the world in any of those guys getting in the game and playing.”
That confidence doesn’t just come from having seen his teammates on the field, it’s from knowing what is required to start on the offensive line at Ohio State.
There is a standard and an example that has been set, and he believes the culture will set this group up to be very successful once the season gets underway.
“And I agree, I think we’ll be better because of [the competition] and I think because of the culture that we instilled last season and the expectation,” Myers said.
“It became the expectation, not the exception, you know what I mean? Any anything short of us all grading out as champions and dominating was considered a failure. And I think the young guys took note of that and are running with it and are trying to hold themselves to that level of expectation.”